Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Can I Help You?

Let me know how I can help you -

We're doing a survey - A few questions..
- What led you to checking out Stoke Magazine?
- What are you hoping to learn?
- What's the one thing you're struggling with in paddling?

All comments are moderated and for your privacy, won't be shared.

Thanks a bunch!  Rob

Any questions, give me a holler, / +1 206.465.7167

Friday, September 23, 2016

Paddleboard Tips for Big People - How to Climb on your Board

Occasionally I get students who are either large in frame or overweight. Of these, a few can't climb back on their board without assistance due to fatigue, lower upper body strength or the shape of their belly which hinders climbing on a floating 5-6" (Tower boards can be 8" thick) board from water level.

We use a flip rescue to help folks back on and have developed a few other board mounting techniques as well.

In searching for 'big people paddleboard rescue', I came across only one YouTube video on the subject.  This guy (below) developed a smart system to get himself out of the water effectively, thus allowing him to continue to paddle without fear of not getting back on.  

I had already developed a stirrup system but his knotted rope system is a great addition. I made one and tested it out, works great!  Downside is whether it'll work in wind and waves as you're limited to just the back end of the board. Doing so from the side immediately flips the board.

Stirrup Design - The stirrup can be made using a car rack strap 1" wide or thick rope. Something that will support your weight. Keep it stored in your lifejacket (I like pockets) or on your board attached to a tail loop, board handle or in outfitting on the nose. Make a loop out of it so you can attach one end to the back of the board and the other end in the water to step up on. Make sure the length is enough so your step isn't too hard to get on.  Test it prior to going out in deep water. Always wear a leash to keep yourself connected to the board. Even I wear a leash on flat calm water. Don't like standing on your leash? Attach it to the waist strap of your C02 Pfd or side straps on your vest Pfd. 

Connection of Stirrup to Board - Attachment points for the knotted rope/strap only works if you have you have a fabric or loose handle.  You can attach one (if you have a sunken handle) or improve yours by using a handle such as this one by NSI.  The stirrup by itself can be attached by the leash plug string or, tail board handle or D-Ring (use parachute cord or string up to 4mm thick).

Use of Stirrup - Try one leg in the stirrup, then if that doesn't give you enough support, use both feet to get on. Adjust the stirrup length to create the best step level. A car rack strap may be easiest as you can use the metal clamp to tighten or loosen the length. Wash often to keep the metal mechanism operating correctly.  Remember to attach the the very tail of the board, side will flip it.

Tip: Kick the leg not in the stirrup to help leverage yourself on the board. Whenever you climb on a board, kick one or both feet to float raise your body to the water surface - while pulling on.  If you're worried about falling off and having to struggle to get on, you can injure yourself falling on a fiberglass or plastic board. It's safer to fall off away from our board (fall flat, especially in shallow water).

Test it out in shallow water before you go further out to make sure it works. Try different things and report back to me if you find a better solution. I tried to create a stirrup with my leash but couldn't get the right leverage with a straight leash and a coiled leash was too bouncy. 

Any questions give me a holler.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How to Forecast Surf

Note: Below, I use surfing in the Pacific NW (north of Seattle) as an example of how to forecast surf. But much of the info will apply to most coastal surf spots.

Long Range Forecasts - I don't trust the TV weather people when they predict weather 7 or more days out. For Seattle or coastal weather I use the NOAA site a few days before a class or my personal surfing time. I use this site Marine Forecast (top selections) and a local app called  Check if there's local weather and/or surf forecast apps for your area.

What do I look for?...

Swell Direction - For the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I want a NW or W swell. S or SW doesn't work as well, it has to get into the Strait. If you were in Vancouver Island, you may want a SW or W, but not a NW.  For WA - NW is best. Many use compass degrees to determine specific angles. Each coastal beach has a specific direction people prefer. If you don't know, go. Over time you'll figure out which you conditions you like best for your skill level.

Swell direction and swell size as well as wind speed and direction are measured on offshore buoys and by some land based towers run by NOAA or Environment Canada. Swell is the incoming waves. If you look at SurfWater, the first listing is La Perouse (46206). This is located in the middle of the Strait between Vancouver Island and WA. This is our best buoy for Hobuck, Neah Bay and Port Angeles breaks.  At time of writing it says - 5 ft - 12 sec. NW - Wind: 10kts SE. Updates occur each hour.

- 5' NW swell. 5' is a good size both on the coast and on the Strait. By the time it reaches Port Angeles it could be 5' or knocked down to 2-4'.  Wind direction and tides effect wave size.
- 12 second period - This is the distance between each wave. Storm surf is lower, so 5-9 sec. This means the waves will be closer to each other making it harder to catch waves and you'll have less clean wave faces. Calmer seas and less wind but more powerful waves will be from 12-18sec more preferred by experienced surfers.
- Wind Direction - For the Strait, South (comes from south) is preferred as it creates 'offshore conditions' building up wave faces making them more ridable. W is ok. North creates 'onshore' conditions which flattens waves faces making 'mushy' waves thus less clean wave faces to surf. This is great for beginners as they just want a ride, don't necessarily need a perfect wave and the break will be less crowded.  East wind kills the incoming W or NW swell, At Hobuck, a SE or E wind creates offshore waves, W is onshore.

Tides. Each beach requires a specific tidal level for specific types of waves. Or surfers have a preference for a specific level for what they like. For example, I prefer a high tide at my favorite break for long rides from the outside to the beach. Low tides close out (wall up then crash on or near beach) which is great for short boarders, but SUPs can't always take a close out steep drop and turn the board before hitting the beach.

In Seattle for Freighters, we need a lower tide for our breaks to work at all.  I determine tides using a few tools depending on what's available and/or if I have an internet connection. Surfwater has a tide chart but ol' dyslexia here can't read it. So I prefer a printed book by Captain Jacks Note link is for 2016, 2017 not available until 12/2016. (I have one in the car too) and Mobile Graphics, an online site. Some like Dairiki which I believe is local. In reading tide charts, note that those are just predictions. Wind, current and recent heavy rain (flooding) will speed up or slow down tides. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is particularly hard to predict, it can be 1-2hrs off the charts in either direction.

That's a lot of info to digest. As surfers we become amateur oceanographers, weather men/women and scientists. The key to improving as a surfer is to go often and over time you get it figured out.  Even with all the best satellite, radar and even your own experience, you can get stumped after a 3hr drive and not find good waves. We've all been there. But you won't learn if you don't go. Many of these breaks are very scenic and have other things to do such as visiting Hurricane Ridge or the Olympic National Park if there's no waves. Or bring along your touring board for a coastal tour.

Some may say, "I'll just go to Hawaii for the warmer water instead.' Problem is Hawaii waves have the same basic requirements for forecasting waves. Each beach there has a different 'best time' to be there. Plus add coral, wind, locals. We recommend learning here where you can get regular time on the water to improve, then take your skills with your while on vacation.  If you visit Oahu, we recommend Blue Planet Surf for lessons, rentals and local info.

Safety & Common Sense.. And always use a leash and apply Surfer's Etiquette on the water to prevent collisions and negative feelings toward you by other surfers. My 3 key etiquette rules are - One person per wave. Don't take a wave if others are paddling out directly towards you. When paddling back out after a ride, don't paddle out directly in line with those surfing in. Lastly, share waves. As SUPs we can take more waves than traditional surfers, and this can lead to jealously or a sense that you're a wave hog. Sit a few out or give that surfer who's been patiently waiting for a perfect wave his/her turn.  Learn Surfer's Etiquette here.

If new to surfing or travelling, ask a local surf shop for tips on where and when to go for your skill level. Take a lesson if you haven't surfed before, this will save you tons of lost waves!

Check out my book Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers for tips on how to surf as well as surf forecasting, beach types, etc. We also teach SUP surfing all year round in Washington State.

Any Questions? Give me a holler. 206.465.7167 /

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

SUP Drafting - How and When to do it

What is Drafting? 
To some, drafting is the task of drawing up designs and blueprints. For SUP, drafting means you're literally tailgating another paddler to get a free ride. If you've ever heard of cars tailgating large trucks to get an extra push, this works on water in the same way.  When you paddle, like any boat, your board creates a wake pushing away from the rails near the tail. Some of the wake toward the tail (back) of your board creates an eddy, or recirculating force of water that draws backwards to the board. Like an eddy in a river (behind rocks) the water flow rotates around an obstruction like a rock then creates either a stream of upstream water or dead water (no current) behind the obstruction.

Long story... When you paddle, your board is creating a wave behind it for other paddlers to surf.  The technique requires tailgating the tail of the board in front of you - literally a few inches away - to feel the effect. The effect is literally a free ride. You'll feel a surfing sensation that pushes you forward, while the other paddler does the work.  The trick is catching up to another paddler then aligning your nose to where you feel the sweet spot that allows you to surf.

It's not always a free ride, often you may struggle to keep your nose in line, so it's a good exercise in learning to paddling straight.  Square tail boards are easiest to catch and have the best effects as the square tail creates the biggest eddies. My pintail board (pointy tail) has a very small area to surf - often fellow racers tell me afterwards they couldn't draft me.

Drafting is common in races (see pics) to either draft your opponent or work as a team with your friends to draft each other to save energy especially on long races. Some races restrict who can be drafted. For example, a 14' board can't draft a surf style board. Or men can't draft women (though they all do it anyway). It's unethical to draft someone for an entire race then pass them at the finish.

In non racing situations, drafting is great for paddling up wind or on a long paddle, letting your less strong or fatigued friend to draft you to help get back to shore and/or for fun, trying different boards to see how the effect varies.

(C) SUP Racer

Friday, August 19, 2016

4 Tips for Buying a SUP

I get about 5 requests a week about which board to buy, where to purchase it or to compare boards found on Craigslist or elsewhere. Sometimes folks ask me to help sell boards they bought online or at Costco that didn't work for them. Here's a few tips to be more knowledgeable about the process of finding gear as well as how to avoid getting the wrong board.

Always try before you buy. I say this to most of my students but still see folks going to Costco
or buying sight unseen from online sources. This is the most important tip. Ya, Costco or an online retailer might be cheaper than a local store but no one there has any clue about you, your paddling style, the waters you paddle on and how your body type will work on their board. There's nothing more important than finding out how the board feels to you on the water. Is it tippy? Is it heavy to carry? Can I car-top it? Is it slow or hard to keep straight? Take the time to do the proper research to avoid getting a dud.  

Don't buy a board just because it comes with a free paddle. Most package deal paddles suck! Sorry for the language, but we've seen it over and over again. Most package deal paddles are aluminum and are super heavy. If the foam core in the shaft comes out, they'll sink (seen it). Heavy means it's hard to paddle and will add weight thus stress on your shoulders. Usually you can't tell which way the power face is. Free carbon paddle? Have you tried it? Carbon doesn't mean it's a good paddle or is light. I've seen heavy and/or stiff carbon paddles. Most package deals don't come more important items, a PFD or leash. Buying a paddle is a personal thing. Most paddlers want a good paddle that feels good to the hands, has a nice shaft flex, fits their budget and/or has a certain type of power face or blade width. Inflatable paddlers want a light paddle. Many paddles that come with inflatables are surprisingly super heavy (one student donated her paddle to me as a result).

Boards Cost too Much - Yep but both inflatable and fiberglass board are very expensive to make and are usually shipped here from elsewhere. It is a problem since a family of four can't buy 2-4 boards for less than a grand. Inflatables are the most affordable option if you're buying a few at a time. Late summer to early fall is the best time to buy as retailers are dumping their 2016 boards to make room for the next year's boards. The soft foam boards such as the one pictured leak and may only last you 1-2 seasons before it gets super heavy (see it). They're also super thick thus tippy for taller folks. \

Tip for Families: Buy only 1-2 boards as several kids can be on one board a time and usually only use it as a floating platform. Teach your kids how to paddle tandem (2 on a board). This works well and some families we know even race with one of their kids on their board. During a 6 kids class I had this year, we brought only 3 boards and put 2 kids on each board. Worked great! 
Don't Always Believe the Manufacture's Specs - A student approached me the other day and noticed that the board he bought floats people up to 230lbs. I looked at it and replied - no way! I'm a big guy and sink most boards that are not 5" thick and 32" wide. Some board specs may say a board isn't good for surfing but better for this or that. That's a marketing ploy to channelize their marketing efforts. All boards surf, tour, race, etc.  

Why I don't do Retail - Many ask why I don't do full retail. Truth is, margins are super small and it's very difficult to make a profit. Plus with so many online options, most buyers will go for the cheapest board vs the best, and often will skip loyalty for price. For example, I've been trying to sell one of the fastest and more efficient downwinder boards on the market for an amazing price of just wholesale (Imagine Connector 14'). But folks prefer to buy what they see the pros on or what their friends use even if it's not the best board for their needs. The rep took the board back this week to try to sell in Hood River this weekend. I'll miss it, an epic ride. And there's no money in selling leashes and smaller items unless you're doing high volume. My dyslexic mind doesn't allow me to cross that bridge (not good at math or money mgt).  

Other Gear to Get - After you get your board, remember to get a lifejacket (PFD) and leash.  These are very important items that even us pros use daily. I'm never good to paddle either item! Generally we go with a coiled leash (non surf) and vest PFD for the pockets, warmth, visibility to boaters (don't get black). Kayaking PFDs have many options. Co2 works if you know how to use it - fire one cartridge before going offshore. Most haven't done that.

Here's an in depth video about Buying a SUP from Blue Planet's Robert Stehlik. Definitely watch this!

Any Questions? Give me a holler, always glad to help. Check out my lessons in Seattle too. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Make a Soft Rack Safe Enough for Highway Travel

How to Make a Soft Rack Safe Enough for Highway Travel

Securing Boards Safetly with a Soft Rack
One of our students approached me last weekend to carry her board to Deception Pass, as her soft rack didn't seem safe on the highway. When she arrived at my garage, I worked with her to make her soft rack a safe option for highway and long distance driving. Here's how we did it...  What is a Soft Rack?  

1. Place your board on your car with the leash plug over your windshield (tail first). Deck up or down doesn't matter. Though I generally go deck up for the nose rocker will allow me to open my hatchback.  

2.. Make sure you soft rack is secure and as tight as possible on car and rack.

3. Add two more car rack straps over the board on both ends placing them as wide as possible. Open all side doors and thread the straps through the car - with both loose ends inside the car. Thread the loose end through the buckle, then tighten as much as possible. I put my weight int to, not just a light pull. Then for safety tie a knot the loose strap ends in case the buckle loosens. *Many worry about denting their car roof. Generally this isn't a problem and if it is, the roof will bounce back most often. Note: I'm not a fan of the metal crank buckle straps, they can tighten too much damaging your board. I use these or similar. 

4. Thread a rack strap through your leash plug string (should be parachute cord or similar) then one end through a solid metal loop under the front end of your car (or through a metal front grill). Secure both ends by pulling lightly so as to not pull the tail of the board down too far. 

5. Do a shake test - Go to both ends of the board(s) and push, pull and shake them (be
Rack straps over soft rack straps and board
aggressive) to make sure they're tight.  If not make adjustments where necessary. Check your load 10-20 miles down the road to make sure all is good. Use all your weight to tighten straps as long as the board or car doesn't make funny sounds.

Loading Tips:
- If loading a few boards, before tightening, place insulation foam or rack pads between each board ends where they curve up to prevent the boards from spinning or sliding onto of each other.  Remove fins if loading 2-3 boards, they stack easier. 
- Tie extra strap ends around the bars securely (tight) as a backup in case your buckles or knots fail. 
- Twist straps before tightening to prevent whistling on the road. Concave decks and flat straps = super noisy. 

Safety Tip: Don't load more than 2-3 board for soft racks. 

Cost Saving Tip: If your car comes with a stock rack - just use that for your main rack. No need buy a brand name rack unless you need specific things such as a bicycle attachment, etc.  Pad the rack bars with insulation foam or rack pads.  

Questions? 206.465.7167 or
Interior view of secured straps

Monday, August 15, 2016

Can't Paddle your SUP Straight? Here's a few tips..

Can't Paddle your SUP Straight?  Here's a few tips..

- Make sure you paddle shaft is vertical during your forward stroke.  This means your upper hand will be over the water and/or your wrists are stacked. If your shaft angles over your board (very common) you're doing a slight sweep stroke thus turning the board.  Have a friend follow you from behind to see if your shaft is vertical.

- Many curve their paddle blade around the curve of the nose on the catch. This is a J stroke as you're creating outward pressure to draw the blade to towards you. Instead, imagine a straight line from your feet (parallel to the rail) that leads directly towards your (board) nose.  When you take a stroke with your vertical paddle, draw the blade straight down towards your feet. If it curves at all, you'll turn the board.

- Look where you're going. As a drivers Ed teacher told me in 1985, if you look at the at dog out the window, you'll drive there If you watch where you're going, your body will take you there. If you watch your paddle, you'll go in the direction you're facing. Use this technique to assist our turns too - instead looking where you want to go - or not looking at an obstruction you don't want to hit.  At Deception Pass or on a river, when crossing current, watch your destination - the board will take you there.

If you're doing all the above and you're still turning, a few misc tips.. 
- Get a bigger fin. Larry Allison's Gladiator and Ninja fins will do the job (they're big).
- Take the paddle out at your feet during the forward stroke. Going beyond rotates your body thus turning the board.
- Loosen grip on your paddle. A death grip may rotate the paddle shaft during your stroke.
- If you have a  6-9' board with a lot of rocker you may have to do all of above to keep it straight.

Questions? Give me a holler,